Alberta model fails as Alberta sets new monthly record for drug poisoning deaths

Alberta lost 179 souls to drug poisoning in April 2023, the most we’ve ever lost. Every one of those deaths was preventable. They were the product of a policy choice. 

The UCP finally released the drug poisoning death data for January, February, March and April. And we’re officially back to the bad times. These numbers are very similar to the peak of the crisis in the winter of 2021. 

Danielle Smith, Marshall Smith, Mike Ellis, Chief Dale McFee — all of these decision makers are fine with people dying en masse. When you strip away their words, their actions can only lead you to one conclusion – they are perfectly content with people dying from drug poisonings. 

These ghouls built the “Alberta Model”, a communications strategy centered around  demonizing any actual response to the crisis while actively promoting abstinence-only recovery and treatment. When there was a short-term drop in deaths, they crowed about their “success” from every rooftop they could find. A year ago, Marshall Smith was tweeting about how harm reduction had failed. A month ago, Michael (not a doctor) Schellenberger wrote an op-ed distributed throughout the Postmedia network contending that the Alberta recovery-focused approach should be a model for North America. Nine months ago, former minister for mental health and addictions Mike Ellis said in a press release that, “the steady decline in opioid deaths in Alberta is a positive sign and we are optimistic it will continue.” 

They were all full of shit. It was a temporary blip, a drop in deaths that is far more attributable to the variability in the criminalized, unregulated drug supply than a marginal increase in the amount of people taking 12-step programs. 

As Euan Thompson has assiduously reported, these numbers are likely to only get worse. While the UCP waits months to release data on drug poisoning deaths, the data on EMS calls for drug poisonings has no such delay. Given the correlation between EMS calls for drug poisonings and drug poisoning deaths, we’re likely to see  new death records over the summer in Alberta.

The next step is to force people into treatment, a step the UCP wants to rush through even though there isn’t enough room at the inn now for people who actually want to get treatment. 

Meanwhile, the treatment industry in Alberta is an unregulated Wild West with nothing beyond vague notions of “recovery capital” for what success actually looks like. 

The science on forcing people into treatment is clear — it doesn’t work and it makes the people forced into it more likely to die if they do choose to take drugs again. And while we know people die in treatment, the government won’t even release the details. When we got back our freedom of information request, it was 90 per cent redacted. 

The Alberta Model is built on corpses. The UCP regime and the police leadership that props it up are fine with nearly 200 preventable deaths every month. Stopping the crisis isn’t the point, scoring political points off the inevitable social disorder is. 

If you want to get really dark, there are now record amounts of organ donations happening in Alberta, with a 2018 report finding that nearly 25 per cent of organ donations came from drug poisoning deaths. The drug poisoning crisis hadn’t even gotten really bad at that point. This 2021 study also found a clear increase in organ donors dying from drug overdose in Canada.

On that cheery note, let’s get into the…


  • Edmonton’s long delayed Valley Line LRT hasn’t even opened yet but it turns out they’ve got to replace 140 km of rusty copper cables. How they rusted before the train even started taking passengers was not disclosed. While it still sounds like they want to get it running this year this makes it look pretty unlikely. 
  • While I don’t think very highly of Deena Hinshaw as a public servant, her hiring and then unhiring by AHS has had actual negative consequences. Esther Tailfeathers, resigned from her senior medical director position in protest. Tailfeather was responsible for a program that delivered healthcare with AHS to Indigenous communities. Doctors that can run programs like that don’t exactly grow on trees. Then the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada said in a letter it was “deeply painful” to watch a fellow Indigenous doctor be “tokenized and disempowered.” Then more than 100 doctors signed an open letter saying there’s been “significant harm” done to the relationship between all doctors and the province as a result of this political meddling. A great way for the new UCP government to begin its relationship with the healthcare system. 
  • Electricity prices are spiking in Alberta with the people not on fixed-rate retail electricity plans facing prices of 28 cents a kilowatt hour in July. That’s 3-4 times higher than the typical price for electricity. Not only do people without fixed-rate retail electricity contracts pay this inflated price but they’re also paying back costs incurred by the UCP to help consumers when the prices spiked in 2021 and 2022. Unfortunately people who can’t get fixed-rate retail electricity contracts are often those with bad credit. Those least able to pay are now being forced to pay the most. Alberta’s experiment in free market economics for electricity has failed us all, it’s time to take control of our utilities. 
  • Olivia Chow won the mayor’s race in Toronto. Turns out you can run a winning populist left-wing campaign on the concerns of working class people. In Chow’s case her commitment to addressing the housing crisis was very likely the push over the top she needed to win. 
  • In what might be the first instance of carbon accounting fraud in Alberta that’s ever progressed to charges Olga Kiiker of Amberg Corp. was charged with 25 separate counts under two different pieces of environmental legislation. They’re in court later this week, we’ll keep an eye on it. 

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